WAFTS of laughter warmed the Royal Festival Hall on Monday when Woody Allen said he'd be playing music from the "churches, brothels, picnics and festivals" of New Orleans. No matter that he hadn't been joking. He had coughed nervously between words, just as he does in the films, and that was all the audience needed to convince themselves that they had witnessed a genuine gag from the Comic Genius. And that was what they had paid for. They had paid for the Allen they knew and adored, in his moss- green jumper, eyebrows poking over his glasses, legs crossed floppily like a ventriloquist's dummy. Indeed, the rows sitting behind the stage had paid to see Woody's bald patch. In the process, they had to see six other people - seven if you include the cameraman who buzzed all over the place - who joined the Genius in ambling amiably through "There's No Place Like Home", "We'll Meet Again" and other jazz standards. The band, looking like portly bar-staff, took it in turns to sing the odd verse. Allen, sadly, stuck to his clarinet. At the end, he said it had been a great privilege to play for us. That's what the audience had paid for, too. After all the happiness he'd given them over the years, how satisfying to give him some happiness in return.

Nicholas Barber